A former lawyer who once offered to settle a case through “trial by combat” and ran for Staten Island borough president was sentenced Monday to four years in prison on wire fraud and extortion charges.
Richard Luthmann’s sentence in Brooklyn Federal Court came months after the colorful attorney pleaded guilty to a scrap metal fraud scheme during which he was indicted on money laundering and kidnapping charges.
Luthmann was also ordered to pay $500,000 in restitution and $130,000 in forfeiture.
The case involved a scam in which Luthmann, 39, arranged for junk material to be shipped to overseas clients who had actually contracted to receive valuable scrap metals.
Luthmann also admitted that he sent a threatening letter to a potential witness he believed was cooperating with federal authorities.
“With today’s sentence, Luthmann has been held accountable for using his law practice as a launching pad for his schemes to defraud businesses in the United States and abroad, and to extort a former client, all for the purpose of lining his pockets,” U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue said.
“Our legal system works because everyone believes attorneys are going to be honest brokers of justice,” said William Sweeney, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s New York field office. “Mr. Luthmann’s actions, defrauding and extorting his victims, chip away at the foundations of that system and cannot be tolerated.”
Prosecutors said Luthmann and his co-conspirators formed multiple shell companies in 2015 to sell scrap metal and recycled products to U.S. and foreign customers. Instead, they shipped worthless filler materials, including concrete and road barriers, to customers who had contracted to buy valuable copper — a scheme that netted them more than $500,000.
In December 2016, Luthmann and his co-conspirators, Michael Beck and George Padula, began an extortion scheme directed at one of his former clients who had participated in the scrap metal fraud, according to court papers.
Luthmann invited the former client to meet him at his Staten Island law office to sign legal paperwork, but Luthmann didn’t make the meeting.
But his co-conspirators were at the meeting, and one of them threatened the former client with what appeared to be a handgun and demanded $10,000, prosecutors said.
Last week, Luthmann’s attorney, Arthur Aidala, urged a federal judge to spare Luthmann any jail time.
Luthmann has long had a reputation for eccentric behavior. The bow tie-wearing lawyer once asked a judge to let him settle a lawsuit with a duel. While campaigning for Staten Island borough president in 2013, Luthmann was kicked off the ballot for failing to collect enough voter signatures to qualify.
According to court papers, Luthmann also tried to pay a stripper $10,000 to claim that she had been raped in 2015 by Staten Island District Attorney Michael McMahon when he was running for the office.
Luthmann has also been accused of setting up fake Facebook pages in the names of candidates to influence political races. Prosecutors said Luthmann set up pages impersonating former Republican Assembly candidate Janine Materna and City Councilwoman Debi Rose (D-S.I.).